As it nears the end of 2023, the pressure is mounting for those of us who set lofty reading goals at the beginning of the year. Do you need to finish your reading goal, but you’re worried you might not make it? As someone who always believes that she can read more books than she usually has time for, I frequently find myself reaching for short books to hit my goal at the end of the year. Since I was looking for short books for myself, I figured making a list to share would be beneficial for all.
Many more short books can be found at the library, but I focused on titles owned by the Davenport Public Library that were published from 2021 to 2023. Below is a list of fiction and nonfiction titles that have less than 200 pages. The descriptions are provided by the publisher. Want more suggestions or have a favorite short book? Drop a comment below.
The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson
New York Times bestselling author Peter Swanson pens a spectacularly spine-chilling novella in which an American art student in London is invited to join a classmate for the holidays at Starvewood Hall, her family’s Cotswold manor house. But behind the holly and pine boughs, secrets are about to unravel, revealing this seemingly charming English village’s grim history.
Ashley Smith, an American art student in London for her junior year, was planning on spending Christmas alone, but a last-minute invitation from fellow student Emma Chapman brings her to Starvewood Hall, country residence of the Chapman family. The Cotswold manor house, festooned in pine boughs and crammed with guests for Christmas week, is a dream come true for Ashley. She is mesmerized by the cozy, firelit house, the large family, and the charming village of Clevemoor, but also by Adam Chapman, Emma’s aloof and handsome brother.
But Adam is being investigated by the local police over the recent brutal slaying of a girl from the village, and there is a mysterious stranger who haunts the woodland path between Starvewood Hall and the local pub. Ashley begins to wonder what kind of story she is actually inhabiting. Is she in a grand romance? A gothic tale? Or has she wandered into something far more sinister and terrifying than she’d ever imagined?
Over thirty years later the events of that horrific week are revisited, along with a diary from that time. What began in a small English village in 1989 reaches its ghostly conclusion in modern-day New York, many Christmas seasons later. – William Morrow
This title is 96 pages.
Blue Hour by Tiffany Clarke Harrison
What is motherhood in the midst of uncertainty, buried trauma, and an unraveling America? What it’s always been—a love song.
Our narrator is a gifted photographer, an uncertain wife, an infertile mother, a biracial woman in an unraveling America. As she grapples with a lifetime of ambivalence about motherhood, yet another act of police brutality makes headlines, and this time the victim is Noah, a boy in her photography class. Unmoored by the grief of a recent devastating miscarriage and Noah’s fight for his life, she worries she can no longer chase the hope of having a child, no longer wants to bring a Black body into the world. Yet her husband Asher—contributing white, Jewish genes alongside her Black-Japanese ones for any potential child—is just as desperate to keep trying.
Throwing herself into a new documentary on motherhood, and making secret visits to Noah in the hospital, this when she learns she is, impossibly, pregnant. As the future shifts once again, she must decide yet again what she dares hope for the shape of her future to be. Fearless, timely, blazing with voice, Blue Hour is a fragmentary novel with unignorable storytelling power. – Soft Skull Press
This title is 140 pages.
Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher
There’s a princess trapped in a tower. This isn’t her story.
Meet Toadling. On the day of her birth, she was stolen from her family by the fairies, but she grew up safe and loved in the warm waters of faerieland. Once an adult though, the fae ask a favor of Toadling: return to the human world and offer a blessing of protection to a newborn child. Simple, right?
But nothing with fairies is ever simple.
Centuries later, a knight approaches a towering wall of brambles, where the thorns are as thick as your arm and as sharp as swords. He’s heard there’s a curse here that needs breaking, but it’s a curse Toadling will do anything to uphold… – Tor Books, imprint of MacMillan Publishers
This title is 116 pages.
If An Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga
In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, an Egyptian American woman and a man from the village of Shobrakheit meet at a café in Cairo. He was a photographer of the revolution, but now finds himself unemployed and addicted to cocaine, living in a rooftop shack. She is a nostalgic daughter of immigrants “returning” to a country she’s never been to before, teaching English and living in a light-filled flat with balconies on all sides. They fall in love and he moves in. But soon their desire—for one another, for the selves they want to become through the other—takes a violent turn that neither of them expected.
A dark romance exposing the gaps in American identity politics, especially when exported overseas, If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English is at once ravishing and wry, scathing and tender. Told in alternating perspectives, Noor Naga’s experimental debut examines the ethics of fetishizing the homeland and punishing the beloved . . . and vice versa. In our globalized twenty-first-century world, what are the new faces (and races) of empire? When the revolution fails, how long can someone survive the disappointment? Who suffers and, more crucially, who gets to tell about it? – Graywolf Press
This title is 186 pages.
And Then I Woke Up by Malcolm Devlin
In the tradition of Mira Grant and Stephen Graham Jones, Malcolm Devlin’s And Then I Woke Up is a creepy, layered, literary story about false narratives and their ability to divide us.
In a world reeling from an unusual plague, monsters lurk in the streets while terrified survivors arm themselves and roam the countryside in packs. Or perhaps something very different is happening. When a disease affects how reality is perceived, it’s hard to be certain of anything…
Spence is one of the “cured” living at the Ironside rehabilitation facility. Haunted by guilt, he refuses to face the changed world until a new inmate challenges him to help her find her old crew. But if he can’t tell the truth from the lies, how will he know if he has earned the redemption he dreams of? How will he know he hasn’t just made things worse? – Tordotcom, imprint of MacMillan Publishers
This title is 167 pages.
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
In a crowded London pub, two young people meet. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists—he a photographer, she a dancer—and both are trying to make their mark in a world that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence, and over the course of a year they find their relationship tested by forces beyond their control.
Narrated with deep intimacy, Open Water is at once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity that asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body; to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength; to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, and blistering emotional intelligence, Caleb Azumah Nelson gives a profoundly sensitive portrait of romantic love in all its feverish waves and comforting beauty.
This is one of the most essential debut novels of recent years, heralding the arrival of a stellar and prodigious young talent. – Black Cat, imprint of Grove Atlantic
This title is 166 pages.
Assembly by Natasha Brown
Come of age in the credit crunch. Be civil in a hostile environment. Go to college, get an education, start a career. Do all the right things. Buy an apartment. Buy art. Buy a sort of happiness. But above all, keep your head down. Keep quiet. And keep going.
The narrator of Assembly is a black British woman. She is preparing to attend a lavish garden party at her boyfriend’s family estate, set deep in the English countryside. At the same time, she is considering the carefully assembled pieces of herself. As the minutes tick down and the future beckons, she can’t escape the question: is it time to take it all apart?
Assembly is a story about the stories we live within – those of race and class, safety and freedom, winners and losers.And it is about one woman daring to take control of her own story, even at the cost of her life. With a steely, unfaltering gaze, Natasha Brown dismantles the mythology of whiteness, lining up the debris in a neat row and walking away. – Little, Brown and Company
This title is 106 pages.
This Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
Humans are a varied and divergent bunch with all manner of beliefs, morals, and bodies. Systems of oppression thrive off our inability to make peace with difference and injure the relationship we have with our own bodies.
The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems. World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies. When we act from this truth on a global scale, we usher in the transformative opportunity of radical self-love, which is the opportunity for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world–for us all. – Berett-Koehler Publishers
This title is 159 pages.
The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende
“When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating,” begins Isabel Allende. As a child, she watched her mother, abandoned by her husband, provide for her three small children without “resources or voice.” Isabel became a fierce and defiant little girl, determined to fight for the life her mother couldn’t have.
As a young woman coming of age in the late 1960s, she rode the second wave of feminism. Among a tribe of like-minded female journalists, Allende for the first time felt comfortable in her own skin, as they wrote “with a knife between our teeth” about women’s issues. She has seen what the movement has accomplished in the course of her lifetime. And over the course of three passionate marriages, she has learned how to grow as a woman while having a partner, when to step away, and the rewards of embracing one’s sexuality.
So what feeds the soul of feminists—and all women—today? To be safe, to be valued, to live in peace, to have their own resources, to be connected, to have control over our bodies and lives, and above all, to be loved. On all these fronts, there is much work yet to be done, and this book, Allende hopes, will “light the torches of our daughters and granddaughters with mine. They will have to live for us, as we lived for our mothers, and carry on with the work still left to be finished.” – Ballantine Books
This title is 174 pages.